Tag Archives: McLaren

Queen City Cars & Coffee III

Queen City Cars & Coffee is back! The past two years hosting this show have been absolute blast, and I’m stoked to be putting it on again this year. Last year, over 90 cars attended, about 30 more than the first year. For QC3 (just made that name up right now and I dig it) the goal is set at 125 cars. Let’s rally together and make it happen! Invite your friends, invite their friends, invite people that aren’t your friends, invite your grandma, your neighbor, the guy who cleans your septic tank, it doesn’t matter. Just invite them. I genuinely think we have the chance to create something epic and put the Manchester car scene on the map. This year’s show is on Saturday, September 13 from 8am to 12pm at the Arms Parking Lot in Manchester, NH. Be sure to follow @_DoranD_ and @TopDeadCenter on Twitter for updates. I’m beyond fired up for this, and I can’t wait to see everyone there!

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Cars in the Wild – Twofer!

This entry of ‘Cars in the Wild’ is a little different for a couple of reasons. First, two particularly significant cars with deep connections to the future of the automobile were recently spotted prowling the streets. And secondly, the automotive landscape is in the beginning stages of several major changes. One of these cars is a great example of how change can be executed correctly, while the other should just be executed.

CTW #1 – Tesla Model S

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The Tesla Model S is arguably the most exciting to come from America for generations. While it is not a hypercar, a track slaying racer, or a rival for a Rolls-Royce in terms of opulence, what the Model S is, is a the first fully electric vehicle that could be a viable substitute for an internal combustion engined car. Considering the dismal fate of the great majority of electric cars that came before the Model S, that is a significant accomplishment. The reason for that is many-fold, and one of the major differences in the man behind the Model S and Tesla itself.

Elon Musk is an interesting dude and the very definition of an entrepreneur. He made his first gazillion or so dollars by founding PayPal and since then, has gone on to start a private space exploration company (SpaceX), create the largest provider of solar systems in the country (SolarCity), and Tesla, a California-based car company whose mission is nothing less than to revolutionize the way the world moves. Tesla’s first car, the Roadster, was a low volume electric sportscar based on the Lotus Elise. Its price tag of over $100,000 meant that it was well out of reach of most people, but it served a greater purpose of proving to the world that an EV could be just as fast, if not faster, than many traditionally powered sportscars.

Photo Credit: Autoblog.com
Photo Credit: Autoblog.com

The second phase in Tesla’s plan for Ultimate Global Revolution is the Model S. This particular example was spotted in sunny San Diego, California and was the very first Model S I saw in person. Under the stunning exterior is a 100% electric powertrain and an 85 kWh lithium-ion battery pack that makes 420 horsepower and is good for an EPA estimated 265 miles. The consternation over usable mileage—a.k.a. range anxiety—has always been the Achilles heel of the electric car, but the Model S is the first EV to have a driving range nearly comparable to gas powered cars. And not only does it have great range, the Model S is also properly fast. Like, 0-60 mph in 4.4 seconds and a top speed of 130 mph fast. The Model S Signature Performance edition (best range, most power) rings in at about $100K, but unlike the Tesla Roadster, will be built in significantly larger quantities and is playing ball in the luxury sedan segment where prices like that aren’t uncommon. While the Model S can perform and make sense in the real world, it’s by no means perfect. But, it is likely the best electric car ever made, is a benchmark for future EV efforts, and will impact the future of the automobile in powerful ways. Proof? Watch THIS, THIS, and THIS.

CTW #2 – Fisker Karma

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And then there is the Fisker Karma. These two cars really couldn’t be any more different. Where the Model S is a pure EV, the Karma’s electrification is similar to the one found in the Chevrolet Volt. Under the sculpted hood resides two power plants—a pair of 161 horsepower electric motors that are responsible for the car’s primary propulsion, and a General Motors sourced 2.0-liter 260 horsepower four-cylinder gasoline engine. The normal gas engine is engaged when either the battery pack is depleted or when the ‘Sport’ mode is selected. Instead of driving the wheels itself, the four-banger actaully charges a generator that electrically powers the drivetrain. On the road, the Karma achieves a 52 mpg equivalent which is good, but not great. Fully juiced up, the Karma only has a range of 230 miles, which is also a bit disappointing.ResizedImage_1365874414752

But undoubtedly the most disappointing thing about the Fisker Karma is the way the entire project has been executed. Since it’s launch, the Karma has been plagued by recalls, poor reviews, and instances of literally bursting into flames. All the while, Fisker has had to deal with lawsuits, being on the brink of bankruptcy for what seems like forever, and having the brand’s namesake, Henrik Fisker, leave the company. To top it off, for each Karma the company sells (they retail for about $110,000), it costs roughly $600,000 to make. It doesn’t take Warren Buffet to figure out that’s not exactly what you would call a “sustainable business model.” Karma’s are being sold on eBay right now for barely $50,000. Oh, and one more thing—Justin Beiber owns one and it’s chrome. *gags*

The automotive landscape is changing quickly—you know big things are afoot when Ferrari, McLaren, and Porsche all cook up hybrid hypercars. It’s a shame about the Karma, it had such potential. But, it’s the success that is the Tesla Model S that’s the even bigger story. Bring on the electric revolution.

Many thanks and much respect to Dave Tracy for the shots of the Karma!

TDC Drives: The 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish

I’m quite certain everyone already knows this, but the new Aston Martin Vanquish is great. Through some mysterious combination of luck and knowing the right people at Aston Martin of New England in Waltham, Massachusetts, I was lucky enough to drive one recently. After spending some time behind the wheel, it became clear that the Vanquish is like most modern supercars—an object of intense and oftentimes irrational desire/a supremely effective instrument for redefining perceptions—and a worthy successor to Aston’s venerable DBS. Really, the only negative with the whole thing is that I don’t yet have the $300,000+ to buy one..

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Visually, the Vanquish is a study in lines—vivid, sensual lines that appear to have been coaxed from carbon fiber to coalesce into a scintillating whole. Much of the Vanquish’s visual panache is derived from elements originally seen on the One-77, Aston’s multi-million dollar hypercar. Look deeper, and the Vanquish continues the visual feast—twin lines that track up the hood and echo and reverse on the roof, the flared rocker panels, the character line that runs from the top of the headlights, over those stunning hips, and around to the integrated rear wing. I even like the carbon fiber mustache-thing below the grille. This is a gorgeous car..

DSC_0109Aston Martins have always been a different breed, preferring to arrive at the party in an impeccably tailored suit over a sleeveless tee and Ray-Bans (*cough* Lamborghini Aventador *cough*). Beneath the Vanquish’s beautiful exterior resides Aston Martin’s Generation 4 VH architecture which, in conjunction with an extensive use of lightweight materials, means the Vanquish is both stiffer and lighter than Aston’s previous halo car, the DBS. And, while the two cars share the same basic engine—a 6.0-liter V-12—in Vanquish-guise, the V-12 mill makes 565 horsepower (up from 510 in the DBS) and 457 pound-feet of torque (up from 420 pound-feet). Putting that power to the ground is a six-speed automatic transmission with column mounted paddles. The increased grunt means the dash to 60 miles per hour is politely dispensed with in about four seconds, and this English gentleman will keep on hustling to 183 miles per hour.

Photo Credit: Aston Martin
Photo Credit: Aston Martin

Aston Martin again turned to the One-77 for inspiration for the Vanquish’s interior: the sweeping central stack with touchscreen controls and curvaceous dashboard all hearken to Aston’s flagship. While attractive, the cabin is far from perfect—the rear seats are comically tiny, the buttons on the dash can be difficult to see, and the pop-up navigation system looks like an early ’90s Garmin GPS. The display looked genuinely antiquated and spoils the otherwise gorgeous center stack. I found it best to just leave it off and tucked away. Those things aside, the end result is still a beautifully bespoke cabin from which to command the miles. And hey, if you don’t like the ridiculous rear seats, they are an optional delete.

But enough of that, it’s time to drive. I slid the crystal key fob into a slot on the center stack and the big V-12 ignited with a bark which slowly settled into a delicious, brassy throb. I was curious to see what the Vanquish would be like at low speeds and in traffic on the route I was taking, and it was soon clear after a few minutes in rush hour mayhem that it was no harder to drive than your grandmother’s LeSabre. Hit the button marked “D” on the dash to keep the transmission in automatic and the suspension and engine mapping in their most vanilla settings, and the big Aston easily becomes a willing commuter companion.

DSC_0112But, to stunt the Vanquish’s abilities to grocery-gettting and sitting in traffic should be up for consideration as a criminal offense. The car’s real place is outside of downtown, where the traffic disappears and stretches of open pavement unfurl invitingly. The red mist descended. I switched things into Sport mode, knocked down a few gears, and let the engine hover anxiously near 4000 rpm. The engine strained and yowled in a gritty baritone. Cue Han Solo and Chewbacca trying to outrun Imperial Star Destroyers and make the jump to lightspeed: Punch it.

With the throttle buried, the Vanquish pulled like a fully stoked locomotive and ignited primal areas in my brain I didn’t even know existed. The suburban areas in southern Massachusetts were no place to fully exploit the Vanquish, but after a few rips up to, ahem, vigorous speeds, it was clear the car’s breadth of talent is deep and intoxicating. Like any great power, the Vanquish’s was absolutely addicting—the way it piled on speed, all I wanted was to do pin the throttle at everything that even resembled a straightaway. And if the power was addicting, what about the sound? It would be easy to get all misty-eyed and let my language go purple trying to convey what it was like, but trust me when I say it is something you simply need to experience. Aston Martin reportedly made an effort to insulate the cabin from outside noise, but (thankfully) they utterly failed at keeping the V-12 bellow from penetrating all the way to your core.

Photo Credit: Aston Martin
Photo Credit: Aston Martin

The steering is well weighted and precise, and the slightly squared off steering wheel felt strong and confident in hand. Toggling between the different suspension and power delivery settings produced a noticeable difference in the way the Vanquish drove. Sport mode felt crisp and responsive and produced the biggest grins. There was a reassuring sense of solidity in the way the Vanquish carved up winding back roads and remained composed over rough pavement. When it came time to slow things up, the carbon ceramic brakes firmly hauled the Vanquish’s portly 3800 pounds down from speed. This car was made for effortlessly loping across the miles in serene comfort, with that glorious V-12 ever willing and ready to hunt down the horizon.

After a long drive, gently guiding the Vanquish back into it’s parking spot at the dealership was about the last thing on earth I wanted to be doing. With a seemingly endless reserve of power on tap and character and personality in spades, the Vanquish is one special car. What the Aston Martin has manage to accomplish with this car is twofold: while it isn’t as dynamically superior as the Ferrari F12 or all-conqueringly powerful like the Bentley Continental GT Speed, it asserts itself in the marketplace as a tremendously capable and heartstoppingly lovely grand tourer that maintains the elegance and charisma inherent in Aston Martin DNA. It also takes the family halo car crown previously worn by the DBS and adds a few more precious stones. Now, about that $300,000…

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– Opportunities to drive cars like the Vanquish are special ones. Many thanks and much respect to Steve Oldford and Matt Nolan at Aston Martin of New England for the chance to review this car. Be sure to check out AMNE’s website at www.AstonMartin-Lotus.com and ‘Like’ the Facebook page.

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Cars in the Wild

One of my all time favorite automotive quotes comes from freelance auto journo Andrew Frankel (@Andrew_Frankel). His experience  driving the almighty Bugatti Veyron for the first time is still the best I’ve ever read: “When I finally stopped accelerating I had to slow down and do it all over again, just to make sure I hadn’t been dreaming. Whatever your definition of fast, be it defined by Porsche 911, Ferrari F430 or Mercedes SLR McLaren, the Veyron will take it and, in one instant, burn it before your eyes. Time and distance fuse into one unintelligible fog in your head. In the public road environment, there has never been anything like this.”

I would be so bold as to take that one step further and rewrite it for this week’s Car in the Wild, the Nissan R35 GT-R. “… Whatever your definition of fast, be it defined by a Porsche 911 Turbo/GT2/GT3, Ferrari 430/458/FF, or pretty much anything else you can think of, the GT-R will take it and, in one instant, burn it before your eyes… In the public road environment, nothing can touch the GT-R’s shattering performance for such a bargain-basement price. Supercars costing three times more than the GT-R are robbed blind.”

Like the Veyron, there are few superlatives left to describe the GT-R; they’ve all be consumed ad naseum by anyone who has ever driven one. Its world crushing performance continues to baffle even the most seasoned automotive journalists years after its launch. One of the most interesting things about the GT-R is when you look at it on paper, it doesn’t seem like it would eat some of the best cars on the planet for lunch. A twin-turbo 3.8-liter V-6 under the hood produces “only” 480 horsepower and is responsible for hauling around a rather portly 3,800 pounds. The end result, however, is quite frankly a little ridiculous — this $85,000-ish car sprints to 60 miles per hour in the mid 3-second range, and continues running onto a top speed of 193 miles per hour. Those figures embarrass some of the finest thoroughbreds from anywhere in the world. Subsequent updates to the GT-R increased horsepower to 540, and dropped the 0-60 mph time to a stunning 2.9 seconds. There are only a handful of cars you can buy that are capable of cracking the 3-second barrier, and this incredible performance comes from the same company that produces the Leaf electric car and the Titan pickup truck.

The GT-R certainly isn’t the prettiest car on the road, but it definitely does pack a deadly punch. Since it’s introduction in 2007, the GT-R has been a champion both on and off the track winning multiple racing titles as well as the 2009 International Car of the Year award, and Car of the Year awards from magazines like Top Gear, Motor Trend, and Evo. Admittedly, a lot of Top Gear videos get posted on TDC, but it’s usually for a good reason. Following that tradition, here is yet another hilarious Jeremy Clarkson segment, this time reviewing the GT-R. Enjoy.

In the TDC Dream Garage, there will be a plethora of precious machinery from all over the world — gleaming red Ferraris, bombastic yellow Lamborghinis and naked carbon fiber Paganis from Italy, decadent Bentleys and Rolls-Royces from England, and savagely purposeful BMWs and Porsches from Germany. Amongst them will be an alpine white Nissan GT-R from Japan, bristling with technology and an insatiable Napoleon complex, always looking to land a knockout punch on cars far above its pay grade.

Cars in the Wild

When you think of the early 1990’s, supercars may not be the first thing that pops into your brain. Here’s a list, in no particular order that arrives to mind first: TrapperKeepers, Dennis Rodman, the Goosebumps books, and Salute Your Shorts. And let’s be honest, those aren’t the modern world’s finest moments. When you stop and think, however, you realize that there was some properly epic machinery born from that decade – The McLaren F1, the Jaguar XJ220, the Lamborghini Diablo. These cars came packing outrageous horsepower, massive top speeds and appropriately massive price tags.

And then, there came a car from Japan that managed to fly under the average person’s radar. Some of that is due to the fact that it doesn’t have a gazillion horsepower, doesn’t ooze vulgarity and glitz like Flava Flav’s clock necklace, and doesn’t require the GDP of El Salvador to purchase. Despite all that, this week’s Car in the Wild has maintained its rightful place among the all-time great road cars and spawned an almost cult-like status: The Honda NSX.

Sold as the Acura NSX in the United States, this is a car that true car enthusiasts lust after. It may only have a 3.0-liter V-6 mounted amidships that produces 270 horsepower, but world shattering power was never the NSX’s game – sublime handling in a dynamic and reliable package was. The NSX was produced from 1990 to 2005, and the car pictured here is a later model, made sometime after a worldwide refresh in 2002. When Honda was designing the NSX, they used the venerable Ferrari 328 as a benchmark. Their intention was to create a car that could outperform anything coming from Germany or Italy, in a package that was more affordable and reliable. So did Honda reach their target? Well, let’s have Gordan Murray, the driving mind behind the legendary McLaren F1, answer that:

“The moment I drove the NSX, all the benchmark cars—Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini—I had been using as references in the development of my car vanished from my mind. Of course the car we would create, the McLaren F1, needed to be faster than the NSX, but the NSX’s ride quality and handling would become our new design target.” And as if that wasn’t enough, the equally legendary Formula 1 driver Ayrton Senna was instrumental in fine tuning the NSX and it’s other-worldly handling capabilities. (Can you get any more credibility than that? Didn’t think so.)

Shout out to Dave Tracy for sending in this photo. Whoever this is and wherever they live, car enthusiasts the world over thank you for driving this brilliant piece of automotive history. Now hand over the keys and let us drive it. Thanks.

Musings of a Car Guy: So Many Keys So Little Time, Part 2

Happy Friday. Last day of the week and you’re jacked for the weekend. It’s sunny out, you brought flowers in for your assistant because she fixed what she bumbled yesterday and her daughter is feeling better. Your boss actually apologized to you, which you wrote down on your calendar because you never know when that’s going to happen again, and people all over the office think you’re up to something questionable because you’re wearing a smile so big. They’re wrong though. You know why? You’re grinning like an idiot because you just romped down the back roads to work in your new McLaren MP4-12C and burnt through half a tank of fuel in 20 minutes.

McLaren MP4-12C

The McLaren’s name sounds like a call sign for an X-Wing from Star Wars. It should. It was born from the minds of the developers of the cult classic McLaren F1, widely regarded as the greatest supercar ever made, and comes loaded with power and tech. Kids around the world are ripping down their posters of the F1 and putting up the new MP4.

“Oh, the engine only has 3.8 liters,” says your monster-muscle Viper friend. Yep. It does. It also gets from 0-62 mph in 3.1 seconds, continuing on to 124.5 miles an hour in 8.9 seconds, and then finishes the quarter mile at 10.9. You’ve gone a quarter of a mile before your niece in her Prius has even gotten to 60 mph. Where was your Viper designed? In a barn? The MP4 was designed in a wind tunnel and on the race track with a little help from Louis Hamilton and Jenson Button. Maybe Dale Jr. can just stay home because your Viper isn’t getting any faster. Let me put the counter arguments to rest: The MP4-12C isn’t even the race version. It’s the street version for going to get a coffee at 200 mph. You want to see a real race car that’s going to have a road version in the near future? Google the MP4-12C GT3 car; go hold onto your willy and sit in the corner.

MP4-12C GT3

Wow. That was aggressive. Want something more aggressive?

Saturday. The weekend starts with a little shot of espresso and some toast with local raspberry jam, perhaps a bit of fresh grapefruit. Reason for the espresso is to wake you up and get those synapses firing. Why not regular coffee? You’re never going to want to get out of your Saturday track car so no bathroom breaks. Light breakfast while the rest of your family is mowing through their pancakes and sausage? You don’t want to be throwing up on the dash while pulling 1.5g’s. Kiss your wife, hug your daughter, and rustle your son’s mop of hair. Grab the key fob, open the garage doors, and slide into the seat of your Ferrari 599 GTO.

Welcome to the road going version of the Ferrari 599XX, the only road car from Ferrari to go sub-seven seconds on the infamous Nurburgring racetrack; 6:58.16 to be exact. A random number is nothing without comparison, so here are a few reference points: Around Fiorano (Ferrari’s testing grounds), the mighty Ferrari Enzo lapped the track in 1:24.9. The famous F50 from the ‘90’s did it in 1:26.5, and the every-rich-guys F430 did it in 1:27. The GTO spanked them all with a time of 1:24. You know what else? The GTO even has air conditioning and a radio. This is the fastest road car to ever grace the tarmac of Fiorano, ever.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and do a little bit of maths, so stay with me. Fiorano is 1.9 miles long and the GTO was 0.9 seconds faster than the Enzo. The Enzo’s Nurburgring lap record is 7:25.7. At 0.9 seconds per 1.9 miles faster, all things being equal, the GTO would have put up a 7:18.36 ring time. That is four seconds faster than the Viper ACR, six seconds faster than the Nissan GTR Spec V, Pagani Zonda F and Maseratti MC12. Disgusting. The best thing out of all this? Between yesterday and today, you’ve driven some of the finest machinery in the world, and the weekend isn’t even over yet. Today you drove a little red GTO sized electron through the Hadron Collider, approached what felt .99 light speed, and then drove home and played catch with your boy. It’s good to be you.

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Ferrari 599 GTO

Sunday. Day of the cruise. Day of nostalgia. This is the day where you come down from the testosterone and adrenaline from yesterday and you drive what you drive because you’re a car guy. Sunday is the day you drive the car the manufacturer asked you to buy. When you’re in this rarified car buying status where dollar figures have multiple commas between the zeroes, there are some cars that transcend their price tag and their status. There are cars out there that are produced at a loss to the company producing them. All business sense goes out the window because this object is produced from something deeper than a desire to sell a car, something like morality and love. That’s where your Sunday car comes from. With this car, you didn’t bribe the company into letting you have the keys by showing them your stock portfolio, you had to earn it. I should stop calling it a car; it’s more a piece of living art. It breathes and screams and moans, and sometimes is just gracefully silent. Some of them have been put into private collector’s warehouses. One is probably sitting under Buckingham Palace.

The car must have a price however. The Veyron was once the world’s most expensive car at $1,400,000.00. No longer. This rolling sculpture ticks in at glorious $2,300,000.00. This is the crown jewel of your garage.

That difference of $900,000 could almost buy you the world’s oldest Corvette (one of the rarest cars in the world). Corvettes #001 and 002 have been lost to history but the 1953 Corvette #003 is still out there and just sold at auction for a cool $1 million. You were there, you thought about it, but didn’t raise your paddle. It’s because out of respect, you couldn’t drive that car. It’s far too precious.

Your crown jewel and Sunday car is the Aston Martin One-77.

Aston Martin One-77

You don’t have the radio on because you love the sounds the car makes on its own. It is supercar in its own right but also a sculpture worthy of the contemporary exhibition space in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City or the Tate Modern in London. This car is literally hand built one at a time. The aluminum body is hand shaped on an English wheel. The engine block isn’t cast, it’s machined out of a single block of metal. The frame and body of the car are designed specifically to channel the engine’s sounds into the cabin. Each car’s steering wheel, seat, paddle shifters, everything is designed to fit the individual owner’s driving style and body type. The CEO of Aston Martin Ulrich Bez, wanted each car to fit its owner like a tailored suit and to be purposefully built to be an extension of you. It is an honor to drive the One-77. You feel privileged. Anyone can spend money and buy a fast car, but not everyone can be a part of historic art.

In the One-77 you are James Bond. You have swagger. Not out of arrogance, but out of confidence. You are a gentleman driver and a badass pavement slayer. You know that Dos Equis man? He comes to you with his car questions. When Chuck Norris needs an oil change, he calls your phone number. He might dent his oil pan with a round house kick. When Prince Abdullah asks you to sell your Aston, you politely decline but offer to play squash next weekend. When EVO magazine wants to do a cover shoot of the One-77 you reply, “Sure! Don’t worry about the money, just take it for a spin.”

Glorious…

Great cars aren’t about self promotion and indulgence but about community, history, and pushing the limits of technology. You could have fifty cars, but you don’t. Your approach isn’t so flamboyant so you stick with a meager but pronounced seven. Even though you’re a gentleman, you’re still a car guy at heart. Now go drink a great beer and barbeque a steak.

Until next time, keep musing and driving.

– The Car Guy (Please welcome The Car Guy to the esteemed group of TDC contributors. The Car Guy will be contributing to the ongoing series, Musings of a Car Guy. Look for another piece from this talented writer soon!)